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Is time continuous?

jelliott

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Since the beginning of it, we have tried to measure it: time. The concept in itself is intangible and pretty abstract, though we perpetually experience it and find it to be one of our biggest issues. I made an earlier post regarding additional dimensions, noting that many consider time to be the 4th dimension, one that is unbound by spatial constraints - but here, I'll take the topic into something even more abstract.

I knew before researching that people have different outlooks on time, whether or not it is flowing continuously or if it has certain fast points and slow points, ebbs and flows. Generally speaking, due to the advent of digital clocks, we have time down to very specific and accurate intervals. But that's boring - so I looked into it.

time-continuum.jpg?w=233&h=300

I found out that what I wanted to know is worded thusly: "Is time continuous or quantized?" And before I get deeper into this, I'll explain both of these terms. Continuous is fairly self-explanatory - time flows without intervals, and the intervals we assign to it (seconds, etc.) are entirely arbitrary. In other words, think of it as a number line: from t = 1 second to t = 2 seconds, every possible number of seconds in between these values occurs, therefore meaning time flows in infinitessimally small values, so small they are incalculable and essentially nonexistent.

Quantized is the opposing viewpoint. Think of the base word, "quantum", meaning a minimum possible value. Does time have a minimum interval, the same way matter has a base unit of an atom? Well, such a unit has been proposed for use in quantum physics. It is known as a chronon, and its value has been theorized and calculated. The idea of such a unit existing was brought up by Robert Lévi in 1927, and in 1950, German-American physicist Henry Margenau suggested that a chronon could be the time it would take light to travel the radius of an electron - so you can already see how small a chronon is.

A comprehensive model for this subject was put forth in 1980 by Piero Caldirola, where one chronon is about 6.27×10

−24

seconds for an electron. Note that the chronon varies due to the charge of a particle - the equation is given like this: 171e94936706af3b0024697a285766ca.png.

However, this is not the smallest amount of time ever theorized. There is a unit much smaller known as a Planck time. It is known as the amount of time it would take for light in a vacuum to travel one Planck unit, which is 10−20 times the diameter of a proton. (An incredibly small value.) A Planck time is about 5.39×10

-44

seconds - so what's the point of such a small interval? Well, many physicists believe that this is around the smallest value of time where an event, or change of some sort, can be noted. Any smaller unit is useless, since nothing would really occur in such a miniscule interval.

What do I think of the whole thing? I think time is continuous, but I also think that the breaking down of units of time into small intervals becomes increasingly useless as you go along. In other words, smaller units of time than this exist, but they are scientifically insignificant values.

Hopefully this stretches your mind a little bit - time is an incredibly interesting thing, especially at these quantum levels.



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